Features November 1, 1998 Issue

Vetus, Simpson Lawrence Best Of The Nonskid Add-Ons

Most of the tapes we tried provide just a smidgeon of nonskid action, except for the gritty TBS SlipStop.

Anyone who has spent time on a number of boats knows that there are usually some spots that could use some form of nonskid protection. Some manufacturers, it seems, take the minimalist approach. There are always, of course, those boat owners who put molded-in nonskid over virtually every exposed surface, including places you’re not likely to tread

One of the most common areas where nonskid would be welcome is on the side decks where one steps onto the boat.

There are several approaches to adding nonskid to your boat, as we discussed in a June 1, 1990 report. Among the options are two-part epoxy paints mixed with non-skid particles such as Griptex Nonskid Particles from U.S. Paint or Interlux’s Noskid Polymeric Powder. And there are special paints that come with rubberized particles already mixed. In our experience, however, considerable skill is required to lay down the paint with the nonskid particles evenly distributed. Experiment first.

A quicker and easier way is to apply one of the self-sticking nonskid products available at most marine stores or through catalogs. These products range from tapes to pads to vinyl strips and generally are quite cheap—$10 or less per package. We decided to try them out and see which were the most effective. The only ringer in the group is a pad distributed by Vetus den Ouden, which costs $108 for a 3’ x 4’ sheet, and which is not readily available in chandleries or marine catalogs. You can buy it direct, and you will recognize it as an OEM product on someproduction boats, mostly European.

Our testing was simple and straightforward, and much like the method we used to try the holding power of various boat shoes a few issues back. Following the manufacturers’ instructions, we applied various products to several slick boards, then invited several staffers and any passersby we could rope in to step “aboard” and give us an opinion.

The testers wore a variety of footwear including boat shoes, street shoes, and sneakers. Using a protractor, we placed the boards at ever-increasing angles until we couldn’t remain standing any longer (we know from experience that with most shoes on most surfaces, such as nonskid gelcoat, you’re going to start slipping at about 40°-45°).

Then we wet down the nonskids and tried them again. Finally we dirtied them up to determine ease of cleaning (using a citrus-based spray and water) and added a few subjective comments about texture—we like rough enough to prevent slipping, not so much that any exposed skin gets scraped off. After a few weeks, we tried peeling them off to see what kind of lasting power they had. All adhered well and removed easily.

What We Found
Not surprisingly, the most expensive product in the group, from Vetus den Ouden, was easily the best, with terrific holding power that made it almost impossible to slip. Because of its texture and color (brown or gray), and the fact that it comes in 3’ x 4’ sheets, this is most often used for covering entire decks, though there is no reason it can’t be used for smaller, specific areas. The Vetus, along with Treadmaster from Simpson Lawrence and one of the tapes, provided the best traction.

Most of the tapes, however, were not very effective, although they varied in gripping power and, by their nature, are good for installing on narrow surfaces, such as boarding areas and ladder steps. Here are our individual evaluations.Beckson All Weather Step Pads. $6.50 for package of two 3-1/4" x 12" pads. We got ours at West Marine. These vinyl-like white pads are, properly speaking, not a true nonskid surface but rather are grooved or ribbed. As such, they provide traction only in two directions; but while they look slippery, they provided a fair amount of traction. The Beckson picked up dirt readily, but cleaned easily. A good buy at $6.50, we’d recommend these for use only on companionway steps, boarding ladders, or other stairs.

Garelick EEZ-IN No-Slip-Strips. $6.99 for 12 12" x 3/4" white strips. The Freeport Marine catalog says these Garelick strips are used on U.S. Navy craft. We found them a little flexible going on, so you need to take care to keep them straight and also not to distort them. Garelick has fairly complete application/use guidelines (no constant immersion, eg.). Moderate nonskid action—not great by any means but better than smooth gelcoat.

Garelick No-Slip tape. Sold in 1", 2", 4", 6", and 12" widths, $.60-$4.90 per ft. in white, black, or clear. We got a 1" x 48" roll of white tape and found it quite easy to work with (and less waste), and also liked the 1" width, as opposed to 3/4" width of the strips. The tape’s surface is slightly smoother than that on strips, but with no less—or more—nonskid protection.

S L Treadmaster Anti-Slip Pad.
$11.50 for a package of two 10-3/4" x 5-1/4" pads in white, black, or blue. These diamond-pattern pads, made in England, provide excellent nonskid action, ranking close to the Vetus in that category. The diamond pattern also washes down easily, although the white shows dirt quickly. You can trim these pre-cut pads to use anywhere, but we think they’re best suited for steps. And, they’ll give you true nonskid protection at just a bit more than the cost of a roll of tape. A Best Buy. Larger pads are available for covering whole decks.

Sportstripe Gripper. $8.49 for a package of eight white, blue, or black strips. These colorful (we got the blue) strips were the consensus losers among all our testers. Virtually no nonskid properties. Cleans easily, but who cares?

Sportstripe Sport Tread. $8.79 for a roll of 1" x 20' white tape. Like the Gripper strips, the tape offers a kind of poly bubbled surface—easy on the skin but not very effective as nonskid. In our opinion, it’s somewhat less effective than the Garelick .

TBS SlipStop. $7.95 for a 1” x 8’ roll in white. This French-made tape has a rough granular surface that is much grittier than the other tapes, and correspondingly more effective as nonskid. However, we also found that the grit is quickly removed by scraping (with a knife blade) or even during scrubbing. Most effective of the tapes, but probably won’t stand up to long use. The biggest problem may be finding some of this tape; we bought ours at a local chandlery which ordered it from Wichard, a Connecticut distributor. Wichard, though, says it is no longer selling the product in the U.S.

Vetus Non-Slip Deck Covering. $108 for 3’ x 4’ sheet; available in brown (“Safari”) or gray (“Laughing Elephant”). Less a quick fix than a true upgrade, the Vetus sheets don’t come with adhesive backing. You can buy some of the company’s Boatfix adhesive for about $28/qt., or use any contact or epoxy compound. Because it was a test installation, we used a $3.79 tube of 3M silicone. As indicated, this was clearly the best of the lot. The rounded dot pattern seems to clean easily, but the brown and gray also doesn’t show dirt readily, which fits our notions of maintenance.

Bottom Line
Vetus and Treadmaster were tops among pads—good choices for decks. If you can find TBS SlipStop tape, we'd use it for steps or other narrow spots. Failing that, we'd buy the Garelick.

Contacts- Beckson Marine, Box 3336, Bridgeport, CT 06605; 203/333-1412. Garelick Mfg., 644 Second St., St. Paul Park, MN 55071; 612/459-9795. TBS SlipStop, Viscom Int., 507 Hopmeadow St., Simsbury, CT 06o70; 860/658-2201. Sportstripe, Spartan Int., 1845 S. Cedar St., Holt, MI 48842; 517/694-391. Treadmaster, Simpson Lawrence USA, 6208 28th St., E., Bradenton, FL 34203; 941/753-7533. Vetus Den Ouden, Box 8712, Baltimore, MD 21240; 410/712-0740.

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